Skip to content

Jimmy Greaves: Former England, Tottenham and Chelsea striker dies aged 81

Jimmy Greaves is Tottenham's record goalscorer after scoring 266 times in 379 games; he won two FA Cups and the European Cup Winners' Cup with the north London club; Greaves was a member of England's World Cup-winning squad in 1966; he died at home on Sunday aged 81

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Former Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp pays tribute to Jimmy Greaves and says the striker was a 'fantastic footballer and a great person' off the pitch

Tottenham and Chelsea came together on Sunday to remember their former striker Jimmy Greaves, who died aged 81.

Greaves had suffered a stroke in May 2015 which left him wheelchair-bound and with severely impaired speech. He had also suffered from alcoholism and quit drinking in 1978.

In announcing the news, Spurs said former England international Greaves - the club's record goalscorer with 266 goals - died at home on Sunday morning. His 37 league goals in the 1962/63 season remains a club record.

Both Tottenham and Chelsea players stood for a minute's applause ahead of their Premier League match at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, while several former Spurs players, including ex-team-mates of Greaves also paid tribute.

Current Spurs striker Harry Kane described Greaves as "A true legend and one of the great goalscorers", while former Tottenham midfielder and boss Glenn Hoddle said: "A true legend of the game, love and thoughts to all of Jimmy's family. R.I.P."

Tottenham's Jimmy Greaves
Image: No player has scored more goals for Tottenham than Greaves

Greaves, who is widely regarded as one of English football's greatest ever players, began his career at Chelsea and scored on his debut - against Spurs - in 1957.

He spent four years as a professional with the Blues, and scored 41 goals in the First Division in 1960/61 - another club record.

Greaves then moved to AC Milan but struggled to settle in Italy - despite an impressive scoring record - and swiftly returned to England with Tottenham in 1961, where he scored a hat-trick on his debut against Blackpool.

The striker also found the net in Spurs' FA Cup final win in 1962 and their European Cup Winners' Cup final victory - the first European trophy won by an English club - in 1963. He won another FA Cup with Spurs in 1967.

Greaves then joined West Ham in 1970 before ending his professional career, aged 31, a year later.

His 366 goals during his time in England and Italy made him the top scorer in Europe's top five leagues until he was eclipsed by Cristiano Ronaldo during the 2016/17 season.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Jimmy Greaves will forever be known as a legend of Tottenham Hotspur and football, says Darren Lewis of the Daily Mirror

He was also a member of England's World Cup-winning squad in 1966, and ended his international career with 44 goals in just 57 caps.

Greaves' England goal tally makes him his country's fourth-highest scorer. Although he did not play in the 1966 final win over West Germany, he finally received a World Cup winners' medal in 2009 after a long campaign.

He was also awarded an MBE in 2020.

Greaves is survived by his wife Irene and four children, plus their 10 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Spurs and Kane pay tribute

Getty: Former Spurs players pay tribute to Jimmy Greaves at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
Image: Former Spurs players pay tribute to Jimmy Greaves at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Spurs and Chelsea remembered Greaves in their Premier League game at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Sunday afternoon.

The visitors won 3-0 with the players wearing black armbands, while former team-mates and other ex-Spurs players were in attendance including Martin Chivers, Steve Perryman, Micky Hazard, Paul Allen, Ossie Ardiles, Gary Mabbutt, Graham Roberts, Glenn Hoddle, Ledley King and Michael Dawson.

A minute's applause was held before kick-off in north London and also prior to Sunday's other two top-flight games - West Ham vs Manchester United and Brighton vs Leicester.

Spurs fans pay their respects to Jimmy Greaves ahead of the Chelsea match on Sunday
Image: Spurs fans pay their respects to Jimmy Greaves ahead of the Chelsea match on Sunday

Spurs captain Harry Kane, second behind Greaves on Tottenham's scoring list, told Sky Sports before the Chelsea match: "First and foremost our condolences to Jimmy's family and close friends. It's a sad one but hopefully a day we can celebrate.

"He played for Tottenham and Chelsea and hopefully we put in a great performance in his honour. Jimmy was an incredible player and goalscorer and a legend for club and country.

"It's frightening really how good a player he was. For someone like me to look at his numbers and one day go on to break those numbers would be incredible. I got to meet him back in 2017 and it's just a celebration of him today."

Another of Greaves' former clubs, AC Milan, also paid tribute to their former forward in a post on Twitter.

The tweet, written ahead of AC Milan's Serie A game with Juventus, read: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our former player Jimmy Greaves. Our hearts go out to his friends and loved ones on this day of mourning.

"Although our time together was short, we'll forever cherish the memories. Farewell, Jimmy."

England's goalscoring 'genius' who missed their greatest triumph

By PA Media

To many he will be remembered as the bewildered, besuited figure on the Wembley touchline as all around him erupted with joy in the moment of England's 1966 World Cup win.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Sky Sports' Graeme Souness pays tribute to former Tottenham, Chelsea and England forward Jimmy Greaves who has died at the age of 81

To others of a certain era, it is his jocular co-hosting of a Saturday lunchtime television show which will last longest in the memory.

But for anyone inclined to scour the record books, Jimmy Greaves will go down in history as quite simply one of the greatest out-and-out goalscorers of his or any other generation.

Sir Geoff Hurst, who replaced Greaves in the 1966 team and scored a hat-trick in the final triumph over West Germany, says Greaves was simply the greatest English forward there has ever been.

Jimmy Greaves during England's World Cup game against France back in 1966
Image: Greaves during England's World Cup game against France in 1966 - he missed the final through injury

"There have been some great players but forwards are judged on goals, and there's nobody who could touch him," Hurst told the PA news agency in February 2020.

"I am asked is there any animosity between Jimmy and I, because I took his place? But not for one second.

"You hear the term genius, and it is the one word which applies to Jimmy."

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Jamie O'Hara says everyone who progressed through Tottenham's academy knew how much Jimmy Greaves meant and what he helped build at the club

'The finest marksman the country has ever seen'

Tributes for Greaves flooded in on Sunday morning, with Spurs describing him as "the finest marksman this country has ever seen".

The club added: "He was a natural goalscorer, always in the right place at the right time to add the finishing touch to another well-worked move, while he could also create his own goals, as he did on numerous occasions by gliding past defenders and passing the ball into the back of the net.

"He possessed immaculate ball control, great balance and such composure in front of goal that he rarely spurned an opportunity.

"Football will not see his like again."

Chelsea, where Greaves began his career, hailed him as the "finest goalscorer" to play for the club.

"Chelsea Football Club mourns the loss of a truly remarkable player and one of our own," a statement read. "Our thoughts and sympathies are with Jimmy Greaves' family and friends at this time of their sad loss.

"Those who witnessed Greaves effortlessly breeze through a defence with the ball at his feet, before passing it beyond the goalkeeper and into the back of the net, universally acclaim him as the finest goalscorer to play for Chelsea FC.

"They normally go further too, and describe the east Londoner as the best finisher English football has ever seen."

A statement from the England team on Twitter read: "We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jimmy Greaves at the age of 81.

"Jimmy was part of our World Cup-winning squad and scored a remarkable 44 goals in 57 games for the Three Lions. All of our thoughts are with his family, friends and former clubs."

England manager Gareth Southgate added: "Jimmy Greaves was someone who was admired by all who love football, regardless of club allegiances.

"I was privileged to be able to meet Jimmy's family last year at Tottenham Hotspur as the club marked his 80th birthday. My thoughts are with them and I know the entire game will mourn his passing.

"Jimmy certainly deserves inclusion in any list of England's best players, given his status as one of our greatest goalscorers and his part in our 1966 World Cup success.

"We will pay tribute to his memory at our home match with Hungary at Wembley Stadium next month. His place in our history will never be forgotten."

England captain Harry Kane called Greaves "a true legend and one of the great goalscorers". Jamie Carragher described him as "the best goalscorer we have ever seen", while Rio Ferdinand said he was an "inspiration".

Around Sky